You probably already know what I’m talking about when I say, “her garden, his garden, and their garden”, but have you ever taken the time to contemplate it?
It’s actually not as straightforward as it first appears. Most couples don’t have a line drawn down the middle of their garden with one side hers and one side his. In fact, it may not even be equally proportioned as the keenest gardener will naturally take possession of the largest section.
As you would expect, the garden known as “her garden” is the beautiful one. It contains those plants that enhance the appearance of the home. Lush green foliage to show everything is healthy and well nourished. Plants that drop lots of leaves or shed their bark are definitely not wanted. And if a plant has prickles or thorns it must have flowers so stunning that they make the less desirable features seem insignificant.
“His garden” is normally a bit more on the curious side and occasionally more practical than beautiful. On occasion his garden will consist of nothing more than the lawn and the lemon tree. By the way, peeing on the lemon tree to make the lemons more flavoursome is a justification, not a requirement. Men will plant trees for reasons women will not understand. The fact a red cedar is much too large to grow to maturity in a residential garden is apparently not as important as the fact its timber is of great value. Some of us will even grow plants simply to see if we can prove the experts wrong.
Now, how about the part of the garden that is “their garden” – this is the shared garden. The garden containing all the odds and ends that neither wants to lay claim to. There’s the rose bush given to you by aunt Carroll, plants that were purchased jointly because each of you thought the other one liked it when in fact you both thought it was hideous, and the plants that the kids brought home from school projects. Unfortunately as no one accepts ownership of this garden it’s never going to look as presentable as the other two. It might even be easier just to give it to the kids to look after so they don’t feel left out of the whole gardening monopoly. At least that way, if aunt Carroll’s thorny rose bush finally dies, it won’t be your fault.
There’s great value in having patches of garden that are managed by different gardeners. It facilitates a great diversity in what is actually a small space. There are patches of beauty to look at, patches of curiosities to talk about and patches of odds and ends that resist categorisation. In total, a patchwork of gardens that reflect the personality of the family.
(Published in Cairns City Life magazine, August 2008)